Susan Leader 23-July- 2008- To Life! A Celebration of Vermont Jewish Women
Susan Leader was born in Springfield, Vermont in 1951. Her life story is rooted in both the Jewish-American experience and the back-to-the-land movement of the early 1950's in rural Vermont.
Producer DAVAR: The Vermont Jewish Women's History ProjectAudio/Visual sound, color
Her grandfather left Poland and settled in Bennington, Vermont about 1910. There he led religious services, gave Hebrew lessons and opened a meat market and grocery store. As his finances improved prospered, he purchased farmland and property in the downtown area.
Her parents met and married in college. As a young couple, the Leaders joined Helen and Scott Nearing in Stratton, Vermont where they were part of the early back-to-the-land movement.
After spending three years in Palestine where they witnessed the birth of the State of Israel in 1948, they returned to Vermont and realized their dream to farm their own land. Her father also worked at a variety of jobs in order to support his wife and three children. For Susan, it was a difficult way to grow up. She felt poor, Jewish, and different from her classmates in the one room schoolhouse that she attended.
One summer while working at an artists' co-op in Weston, she fell in love with making pottery. In 1969 Susan enrolled in pottery classes at Antioch College. As part of the college co-op program, she apprenticed with a number of potters in the United States. Susan, drawn to traditional Japanese pottery, also spent 18 months apprenticing with potters in Japan.
She then moved back to Andover to work with her younger brother Emmett also a potter. She has built a number of kilns over the years and developed a unique decorating style and successful business.
Like her parents before her, Susan lived in a simple cabin in the woods and did odd jobs such as apple picking where she met her future husband, John Specker. John is a self-employed fiddle and violin player. They have two grown daughters Ida Mae and Lila. Both girls were bat mitzvahed at Israel Congregation in Manchester, where Susan is a member.
During the last few years, Susan has been working in the local schools teaching pottery to young children. She also collaborated with another teacher to put on an 'Empty Bowl' dinner, a charity that raises money to alleviate hunger.
Susan Leader's photo credit: Karen Pike, www.kpikephoto.com
This project was made possible in part by major grants from the Aviva Spring Foundation, Vermont Humanities Council, Damon and Marilee Buffum, Vermont Community Fund and many other individuals and organizations who have supported DAVAR through their donations.